Crowd sourcing for fun and profit

by Jini Stolk

I’ve been noticing that more and more Toronto companies are giving crowd resourcing a try.

Alan Brown wrote a piece in WolfBrown: On Our Minds about the potential of web-based technologies to drive new approaches to fundraising. His examples were fascinating. The Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan’s one-day Community Foundation Challenge-Arts and Culture generated over $4.9 million for 75 arts groups, leveraging $1.6 million in matching funds. With just $500,000 in matching funds, GiveMN , a Minnesota fundraising campaign, raised $14 million via the internet from 39,000 people through a 24-hour “Give to the Max Day” event. And The Pittsburgh Foundation raised $1.5 million in online gifts in 22 minutes and 11 seconds through its Match Day.

We all know that social media was a game-changing technology that helped alter the course of the 2008 presidential election for Barack Obama. In 2012, according to the New York Times, mobile payments could be the transformational technology. The President’s re-election campaign just announced that it would be using Square, a mobile payments start-up company based in San Francisco, to allow millions of people to collect money on smartphones for Democratic candidates.

RocketHub  has been used by a few Toronto companies, but it seems to me to be too self-consciously hip to be a good fit for arts projects; it appears to work better for game designers looking for investment. Some Canadian nonprofits are raising money through Kickstarter and Indiegogo , but both require a U.S. bank account. Snoball is an online fundraising platform for microgiving, allowing donors to pledge as little as $1 at a time. The goal of course is to get people to give frequently enough to cover credit card and processing fees.

Closer to home, Small Change Fund is located at 720 Bathurst Street and acts as a kickstarter for projects; their clients as a whole, and the cultural groups they’ve worked with, have an environmental focus.

But the most exciting current initiative that I’ve seen is Doc Ignite, the new online crowd-funding service that helps independent Canadian filmmakers raise financial support for their docs-in-progress. It was launched last month with HOW TO BUILD A TIME MACHINE, directed by Jay Cheel, director of the 2011 Hot Docs hit BEAUTY DAY. The project will campaign for 45 days with the goal of raising $25,000. The Doc Ignite website includes blog and video posts, and provides donor incentives ranging from copies of the final film to Time Traveler’s Fund Certificates. Doc Ignite seems to have captured the attention of the public: after only 10 days, its first campaign reached more than half its goal!

This is an idea that could translate to supporting the development of new stage productions, if coordinated and carefully rolled out. Who’d like to take this on?

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